Knowlton’s Notes: Celebrating a championship and more

Dear friend of Cal Athletics:

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the warmer spring weather. I returned from Atlanta last week to compete in the NCAA men’s and women’s swimming and diving championships. I love attending these gatherings — and attending as many postseason competitions as possible — because they allow me to personally see and support our student-athletes at the peak of their season, as well as show appreciation for parents and alumni and to get in touch with them.

I hope you know by now that our men’s team has won the national title, the seventh in our history and fifth since 2011 under head coach David Durden, who was named national coach of the year after the Bears’ performance. I’m so proud of our student-athletes, coaches and staff for their thousands of hours of work to achieve this incredible achievement! The win marked the 99th national team championship in our school’s history and while we can’t take anything for granted with eight different teams currently ranked in the top 10, I expect we’ll be seeing the No. 100 shortly will!

Our women’s team finished eighth nationally, led by Isabel Ivey’s runner-up in the 200-yard free swim and third place in the 200-yard medley to continue a remarkable run of consistency with their 25th straight national top 10 finish at the NCAA Meeting. Great job bears!

Both our swim and dive programs not only excel in the pool, but they’re also hugely successful in the classroom, and this year they were named Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year for their sport. Robin Neumann, a senior global studies major with a 3.95 GPA, received the women’s honor, while Reece Whitley, who has a 3.50 GPA as a business administration major, received the men’s nod. Congratulations and well done, Robin and Reece!

Overall, our student-athletes continue to excel in their academic achievements, with fall semester results showing that each of our 30 teams achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Individually, more than 75 percent of Golden Bears had GPAs above 3.0. Women’s tennis had the highest team GPA with a cumulative average of 3.61, while men’s golf had the highest team GPA among men’s teams with a cumulative average of 3.45. The data also shows that student athletes are declared in 78 different majors across campus, with business administration, economics, molecular and cellular biology, and data science being among the most popular. This news follows our December report, when we announced the highest degree completion rate in our history at 89 percent, a number that has increased by 10 percent over the past six years. Seven teams achieved 100 percent, including men’s basketball for the first time, while the soccer program rose to an all-time high of 84 percent.

Spring football training for us starts on Wednesday and ends with our spring game, which starts on Saturday 30 April at 13:30. We plan to make a big day out for the whole family, with bouncy castles, a meal and beer garden, autograph opportunities and a chance to take a photo with the axe. Stay tuned for more information either on or in your email inbox with full details soon and we hope to see you at Memorial Stadium!

This March, we commemorated Women’s History Month and highlighted the significant contributions women make to our department every day. Student-athletes and members of our staff shared stories of women who impacted their lives and careers, and we created our first-ever employee engagement group for women, the WLC (Women Leaders at Cal). On June 23, we begin a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark law ensuring the right to equal opportunity for women, and we are planning a series of events to engage women students, athletes, alumni, coaches and staff, who helped build Cal Athletics’ legacy in women’s athletics.

In March, we also honored our basketball graduate student Layshia Clarendon, who was inducted into the Pac-12 Hall of Honor during the men’s basketball tournament at the Las Vegas conference. The event features one recruit from each Pac-12 school and truly highlights many of the successful student-athletes from our league. Layshia helped us as a freshman at the 2010 WNIT Championship before leading the program to the Final Four in 2013 as a senior. Now in the WNBA, Layshia serves as the first vice president of the Women’s National Basketball Players Association and is a member of the WNBA Social Justice Council.

Layshia Clarendon for Knowlton's notes

Congratulations are in order Tarik Glenn, who will soon be inducted into the Indianapolis Colts ring of honor. After ending his long professional career, Tarik returned to work here at Cal and currently serves as Associate Director of Operations and Strategic Planning for our Sports Studies Center. Go bears!

At the end of last week we announced that Leonard Griffin would be our next men’s soccer head coach. Leonard most recently served as the head coach at Grand Canyon University and nearby USF. He was also a member of our men’s soccer team in 2013-14 and has spent time on staff at UCLA, Saint Mary’s, Portland and Cal State San Bernardino during his career. Leonard is a UCLA grad where he was an All-American and National Champion. Welcome to the Cal family, Leonard!

We celebrated Stu Gordon during our home baseball series against Arizona in March with a special day and renamed our Stu Gordon Stadium facility Evans Diamond. Chancellor Christ hosted a reception at University House before Stu went to the mound — where he was a left-hander for the Bears in 1961 and 1962 — to throw the first pitch. Stu and his wife, Florianne, have been incredible supporters of Cal Baseball, and I’m thrilled that our stadium name will honor him for future generations of Golden Bears. Thank you Stu and Florianne for everything you do to support our student athletes!

Stu Gordon for Knowlton's notes

Last Tuesday night we hosted our first Championship CALibere reception at the University Club. We had a wonderful association with football donors who helped us set up a powerful fund to support football’s mission of winning conference championships. Coach Wilcox and the entire coaching staff were in attendance, as were two of our Pro Bears – Patrick Laird and Ashtyn Davis. We’ve heard incredibly positive feedback and look forward to continuing to work with this group.

Cal Softball welcomed the longtime head coach back Diane Ninemire and many team alumnae this past weekend with celebrations every day. Diane, a member of our Hall of Fame, retired in 2020 after 32 years at the helm of our program and led the Bears to the NCAA title in 2002, but the pandemic has prevented us from celebrating her career so far. We hosted a dinner in honor of Diane on Saturday night, where we announced both a new scholarship in her name and that the entrance to our new facility will be named in her honor. Congratulations Diana!

We also held our first in-person staff meeting in two years at Stu Gordon Stadium last month. After being on Zoom for so long it was great to be back together and seeing everyone face to face. Our staff showed such great appreciation for one another and we look forward to the next opportunity to be together again.

I’d like to take a moment to extend my sincere thanks to everyone who supported our 850 student-athletes with a gift during this year’s Big Give. Collectively, we raised more than $1.6 million from more than 900 donors, making it one of our most successful Big Gives to date. It’s amazing what can happen when the Cal community comes together to support our programs. Congratulations to Cal Men’s Rowing, Cal Women’s Rowing and Cal Aquatics for the highest combined Big Give entries. I also want to say a big thank you to our generous supporters, Doug and Corinne Cole, the lead women’s swim and dive coach Teri McKeever and Jerry Romani, and Gary and Donna Freedman, who provided appropriate gifts to ensure Big Give was a success. Philanthropic support is vital to our mission, and we could not have reached this milestone without their generosity.

Thank you as always and Go Bears!

19 Signature of Jim Knowlton

Jim Knowlton
Director of Athletics

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